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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 6th May 2000
Issue No 178

Battlefield Curse Strikes Again

Steal something - or 'collect a souvenir' - from a historic war grave site at your peril.

That was the lesson for one Yorkshire couple who took a piece of wood from Culloden Battlefield last year. Battlefield manager Ross Mackenzie said: "We get all sorts of strange things through the post here, none more so than this parcel which just arrived from anonymous persons containing what looks like part of a fir tree root. "The package with the postmark 'York' was the only clue to its origins. There was no signature or return address, only a request from a lady to return it to the field without delay, because she and her husband had had nothing but bad luck since taking it home. "She didn't specify what sort of bad luck." Ross joked: "The lady said her husband had wanted a souvenir, and she took this soggy bit of wood away under her coat, which must have been a rather dampening experience. "It was probably a remnant of the former Forestry Commission plantation which occupied a large part of the site, and therefore of no historical interest whatsoever. "However, we shall comply with the lady's wishes, in the hope that the couple's luck changes for the better. "I am not superstitious personally, but this is not the first time this has happened. The last package contained stones, sent all the way back from Australia with the same story of ill fortunes. "If the Australian had consulted his Aboriginal friends he would have been advised never to remove anything from a burial site of our ancestors." Ross said the battlefield still has too many trees on it, which is why custodians the National Trust for Scotland have introduced Hebridean sheep to nip new shoots in the bud. However, it was not a good idea for human beings to help themselves to flora and fauna on the site. "We will always try to impress on the public that this is an official war graves site and should be treated with proper respect. We have lots of souvenirs in out shop."

Forever Scotland

There is a corner of London's leafy suburbia that is forever a part of Scotland. A stone circle, complete with 10ft tall standing monoliths was been erected on the Spring equinox as a focal point and a timepiece to mark the Millennium, at Brockley. Twelve giant granite boulders, each weighing between two and six tonnes, were sent by road in a small convoy of trucks from Tain, in Easter Ross, to the site. The sundial on a prominent hilltop in a public park has been created by the Brockley Society. Sculptor and group member Polly Ionides said: "The idea was to create a new meeting place for Brockley on the hill near Blackheath, where people could congregate for everything from conversation to music, dance or poetry. "We have a maths teacher in the society and she worked out the exact positions of the boulders." The stones were left stranded 10,000 years ago, miles from their origin on the side of Struie Hill, overlooking the Dornoch Firth, at the end of the last ice age. Ms Ionides and the society's chairman Joe Cullen travelled to the Highlands where a local geologist helped them select the stones for the sundial.

Conservation Plea

One of Scotland's most endangered environments needs urgent action to prevent it disappearing, a leading scientist warned recently. Scotland's machair, the sandy flatlands on the west coast of the Outer Hebrides, faces extinction caused by a combination of dying traditional agriculture and rising sea level, according to Jim Hansom of Glasgow University's geography department. The fragile Habitats, home to endangered species including the chuff and corncrake, are losing the supply of sand vital to their survival. "The machair lands rely on sand from the front being eroded and blown back, where it becomes part of the machair and is farmed by crofters," said Mr Hansom, who is also on the board of Scottish Natural Heritage. But as sea levels rise by 1mm each year and crofters can no longer afford to graze cattle and use traditional farming methods as the agricultural crisis bites, the machair is coming under severe pressure and the sand cycle is being interrupted. "Erosion of the machair is as much a people problem as a physical problem," said Mr Hansom. "If we lose the machair, the rich biodiversity will be lost. We need to enable traditional agriculture to carry on." He called for the machair to be turned over to agro-environmental farming, where traditional methods are used to conserve the landscape.

Community Tribute

A woman who helped spearhead the drive to restore an Inverness community hall was honoured at a special ceremony recently. The new look Smithton Hall was officially reopened by local community councillor Mary Short who co-ordinated a major fund-raising drive which was further supported with help from building firm Tulloch and Highland Council. The hall is used for a wide range of activities, including a local playgroup, dog training sessions, a gardening club, jumble sales and Highland dancing. Restoration work included redecoration and upgrading of the heating system. Mary was guest of honour at the reopening ceremony at which she was presented with a basket of flowers by grateful; residents. Now that the work has been completed, hall caretaker Sheila Stewart has issued an invitation to all local residents to check out what's on offer at the hall.

Film Award

The use of stunning scenic shots from Highland beauty spots has helped a film promotion group scoop a major award. The Scottish Highlands and Islands Film Commission - a group which includes representation from Highland Council and development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise - was recognised for its direct mail campaign in a competition run by the Association of Film Commissioners International. The campaign used panoramic postcards to promote the Highlands and Islands to film-makers in the UK and overseas. The Los Angeles based AFCI awarded the Highland group a second place in the annual competition. The commission's board of management chairman, David Webster, said: "Over 350 film commissions from across the world entered these awards so we were delighted to win a prize. "We devised and printed the sets of specially designed postcards just before Christmas and have been using them as a direct mail and promotional tool ever since to promote Highlands and Islands locations to film and production companies in Britain and overseas. "The postcards feature examples of the range of different backdrops to be found in out area overprinted with humerous film-making captions.

All Gael School

Gaelic education has received a significant boost in the Highlands with councillors backing moves to establish the first all Gaelic primary school in Inverness. The decision allows the Highland Council to start consultation with parents and open talks with the Scottish Executive on the costs involved. At present, Inverness has a Gaelic medium unit based at Central Primary School in Inverness, which draws pupils from all over the town. Pupils can then continue taking some subjects in Gaelic at secondary level in Millburn Academy. The committee also agreed that Gaelic medium schools should be set up in other areas where Gaelic medium classes exist in a sufficient number of primary schools.

Royal Visitors

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will be making their first visit to Inverness in 15 years this summer when they arrive in the Highland Capital to present the regional business awards. The royal couple last visited the town in August 1985 to open the new extension to the Inverness Harbour and the out-patients wing at Raigmore Hospital after making the journey on the Royal Yacht Britannia. The tour on Monday 3rd July, will start at Inverness Medical at Beechwood Business Park before the Queen alone opens the new Army Welfare Youth Club in Wimberley Way at noon. The Duke of Edinburgh will unveil the new Aircrew Association Bandstand in Bellfield Park, commemorating airmen killed or injured during World War ll while flying from bases in the Highlands and Islands. They will then go to Eden Court for the 2000 Highlands and Islands Business Awards for lunch. It is expected the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will meet the winners. The announcement from Buckingham Palace was greeted with enthusiasm from the town's business community and councillors.

Charity Event

A Scottish childrens charity is searching for volunteers to undertake a fund-raising trek to Peru. Aberlour Child Care Trust is running the nine day expedition described as a "trek with altitude" from October 21-30. It will follow the famous Inca Trail on foot to the sacred ruins of the lost city of Machu Picchu. The charity says the trek will be physically demanding and exciting.

Political Roundup

Scottish Land Belongs to the People.

Scotland's land traditionally belongs to the people of the nation and the term "landowner" has no basis in its law, and MSP claimed recently. Robin Harper, Green MSP for Lothians, told the justice and home affairs committee of the Scottish Parliament that landowners only had the privilege to use their property but it did not innately belong to them. He was seeking to amend the Abolition of Feudal Tenure Bill, which sweeps away the remnants of the feudal system. Feudal superiorities will be abolished under the bill and vassals will own their land outright. But Mr Harper said the wording of the bill should be changed to replace "ownership" with "tenure".

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Some rain in the West a.m. Bright in the East. Locally heavy rain later. Wind light to moderate South Easterly. Temperature 12c to 16c.
Saturday Night
Locally heavy rain. Misty. Winds moderate to strong Easterly. Temperature 8c to 12c.
Bands of showers across the region. Bright with sunny spells. Moderate North Westerly winds. Fairly mild.
Mainly dry. Fairly cloudy with limited sunshine. Light Southerly breeze. Mild temperatures.

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This is Caledonia ( Caley for short ) A Ness-Scape family member and mascot. She is a White German Shepherd. Caley has decided to take over the editing of Nessie's Loch Ness Times, and she's sure she'll make a good job of it. What do you think?

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